Eagle adjusting to Florida life again
By FRANK PASTOR
SPRING HILL -- The clock on the gym wall reads 6:05. But the one in Emory Strachan's head runs five minutes slow.
Strachan, a transfer from the Bahamas, is late for practice again.
"He's still on island time," Springstead coach Scott Bennett said.
Strachan has had to adjust to a faster pace since leaving Nassau in August to move to Spring Hill.
He hopes playing in Florida will help him earn a college scholarship.
"Being here five months, it still feels a little bit strange," Strachan said. "But I'm getting to know people, and people are getting to know me."
The 6-foot-4 senior has made a name for himself on the court, where he leads the county in rebounding (12.7 per game) and ranks second in scoring (14.7 per game).
He grabbed 21 rebounds in an 83-74 double-overtime loss to Ridgewood on Dec. 7.
"When he wants to dominate, he does," Bennett said. "Between him and Jeff Hill, we get every rebound. When he doesn't, we just struggle."
Strachan even earned a nickname, though it's not one he's especially proud of.
Opposing fans started calling him, "Baby Shaq" after he missed 20 of his first 25 foul shots. He has improved only slightly, upping his free-throw rate to 25 percent.
"Sometimes, I can put it out of my mind," he said. "But it gets to me sometimes. It's hard for me to concentrate."
It has been equally tough to acclimate.
Strachan, 19, was born in Miami. He moved to the Bahamas 10 years later, when his mother, Saphora, remarried.
He returned to Florida in August and moved in with his guardian, Dennis Gilbert.
The two met at a tournament in Tennessee, where Strachan was playing for a Bahamian team and Gilbert was coaching another squad.
"He was watching me play and just came up to me and talked to me," Strachan said. "He told me that I could stay with him because I was trying to get off to school."
Strachan has had to adjust to a quieter lifestyle since returning to Florida.
In the Bahamas, he spent much of his free time partying or going to the beach. Now, he often stays home or shops at the mall.
Strachan picked up an accent in the Bahamas. Classmates tell him he mumbles and speaks too fast.
But the accent also serves more practical purposes, such as making him popular with girls and allowing him to tune out coaches in practice.
"I bust him all the time," Bennett said. "I tell him, 'If you don't want to hear something, you just act like you don't understand it.' "
Strachan, who has played organized basketball for only four years, hopes to earn a scholarship to a Division I or II school -- he prefers Arizona and North Carolina -- and then play professionally or pursue a career as "a highly paid computer technician."
He's quick with a sales pitch.
"I'd tell (colleges) I'm not too good on the outside, but if you put me on the wing, I could be a small forward," Strachan said. "I could just drive in and hit a bankboard shot or dunk the ball."
But Bennett said Strachan has to work harder to improve his defense and outside shooting before he will be ready to play in college.
"He could be so much better," the coach said. "Look at his free-throw shooting. If he shot 50 percent -- do the math -- he could be averaging 17-18 points per game if he made his free throws."
When Strachan made consecutive foul shots in a game earlier this season, Bennett said he "about fell over."
"I said, 'Man, we must get him out and check his temperature.' "
Strachan flew back to the Bahamas on Thursday to spend Christmas with his family.
He said his mother and father might return to the United States eventually.
Until then, their time together will be limited to holidays.
"It's very hard," Strachan said. "But I'm doing this to get off to college."
INTRODUCING: EMORY STRACHAN
INTERESTS: Riding his bicycle, swimming.
FAVORITE MUSIC: Reggae.
FAVORITE ARTISTS: Shaggy, Buju.
FAVORITE MOVIE GENRE: Horror.
FAVORITE VIDEO GAMES: Sports (football, basketball).
FUTURE: Hopes to play professional basketball or become "a highly-paid computer technician."
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